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Thread: moving hives?

  1. #1
    Jason G in Tennessee Guest

    Question

    I have heard and read that when moving hives a short distance that you should move them a mile or more away and then to the desired location or to move them a foot or two a day.
    Why is this?
    Can I do this in winter carefully (so as not to disturb the winter clutch). I want to move my hives to a new location about a 100 feet away.
    Jason

  2. #2
    BILLY BOB Guest

    Post

    Hey Jason,

    The bees know where the hive is located just as you know where your home is. The difference is if you move a hive when the bees fly out when it is time to go home they want to go back to where the hive was before.

    To stop this most beekeepers will move the hive 1-3 miles away for 1 or 2 weeks then bring them back to the new spot.

    Some beekeepers have found less trouble moving a hive a short distance in the winter. They have moved them 50 or so feet and didn't see any problems. It is still not something I would do.

    What I did learn from a "Old Timmer" is move the hive and place something in front of it that the bees will have to fly around to get out...like a pice of ply wood. What this does is force the bees to become disoriented and they will do 2 or 3 orientation circles above the hive before heading out. I have done this and it works very well. One friend of mine did it once and placed an empty hive in the old location to see how many bees would go back. He said that only about 10 or 20 bees may have came back but none stayed.

    If you do this on a day when the weather will be warm enough for the bees to fly. Do it in the morning be for they start flying.

    I would not have a problem moving a hive in cold weather in my area. You being north of me may want to wait untill a warmer day (above 45 deg.) to move the hive and try not to bump or shift while moving.

    BB

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
    Posts
    45,313

    Post

    Moving Beehives More Than 2 Feet and Less than 2 Miles

    I would not do this in winter, myself. I'd do it in the spring when the bees are flying.

    This is a subject apparently full of controversy. There is an old saying (that I only recently heard) that you move a hive 2 feet or two miles. I often need to move them 100 yards more or less. I’ve never seen that it was a problem. I move hives as seldom as I need to because anytime you move a hive even two feet, it disrupts the hive for a day. But if I need to, I move them. I didn’t invent all of the concepts here, but some of them I refined for my uses. Here is my technique.

    Short version is move them, put a branch in front of the new location and leave a box at the old one. That night take the box from the old location to the new one and the next day put it on top of the hive there. You are done.

    It occurs to me that a lot of detail that is intuitively obvious to me may not be to a newbie. So here is a detailed description of how I usually move hives single handedly. This is assuming the hive is too heavy to move in one piece or I lack the help to do so. But it works so well, I don’t even think about using other methods. But if you have help and can lift it, you can block the entrance and move it all at once at night and put a branch in front. I know every time I tell any version of this method, someone quotes the "2 feet or 2 miles" rule and says you can’t do it and you can only move them two feet or you’ll lose all your bees. I’ve done this many times with no noticeable loss of workforce and no bees clustering at the old location by the next night.

    Moving hives 100 yards or less by yourself.

    Materials:
    Second bottom board. If you don’t have one, some board big enough to set the hives on will do.
    Third bottom board. A cover cloth is useful but not necessary. If you don’t have one, some board big enough to set the hives on will do.
    Second lid. If you don’t have one, any board big enough to put on top of the hive will work.
    Smoker.
    Veil.
    Gloves (optional but nice)
    Bee Suit (optional but nice)
    An old branch that will stick up nicely and disrupt the flight of the bees leaving the hive.

    Suit up to your comfort level. Remember we will not be manipulating frames so the gloves are not a big disadvantage.

    I usually put a puff of smoke in the entrance, then pull off the lid and put a puff in the inner cover (unless you don’t have an inner cover).

    Then I put four or five good strong puffs of smoke in the entrance and wait a minute. Then repeat four or five puffs and wait a minute. I do this until I see just a whiff of smoke out the top. This is more smoke than I usually use, but we will be rearranging this hive twice and I need it calm all the way through. If they are getting irate or you are moving an exceptionally strong and large hive and it is taking some time, feel free to smoke some more from time to time.

    Wait about three minutes before opening the hive. This gives the bees time to get started eating honey. Remember, Rev. Langstroth says a bee can’t sting on a full stomach. So let them have enough time to get a full stomach of honey.

    Set the second bottom board next to the hive. Take the top box off, lid and all and put it on the bottom board. Remove the lid and move each box from the old location to the new bottom board until you reach the last box. You don’t need to restack the last one because we are moving it first. You now have reversed the order of the boxes so when we move them to the new location they will be in the correct order.

    Put the second lid on the stack of boxes to keep the bees calm and the lid on the last brood box so they won’t fly in your face. Carry the last brood box, with the lid and bottom board to the new location.

    Put the branch in front of the entrance so that the bees have to fly through the branch. It doesn’t have to be so thick they have trouble getting through it, just enough that they can’t miss seeing it. This is to cause them to reorient when they leave. If you watch them they will start by circling the hive, then make larger circles until they have placed the hive in their mental map of their world. Since you have moved the hive to a new place and that place is within their known world they do this fairly quickly.

    Remove the lid, if you want to use a cloth cover, put it on the brood box. It will help keep the bees calm, but you have to get it off with a box in your hands when you come back. That is why I like a cloth instead of a cover. Take the lid back to the old location. Take the top box and lid off and put in on the third bottom board. Put the lid you that you brought back on the stack of boxes. Again this is so there is always a lid on the stack of boxes and a lid on the box you are moving. This helps keep the bees calm. You may be thinking, that the bottom is exposed while you’re carrying it. Yes, but the bees don’t move down when they are getting jostled, they move up. Not that I’d wear shorts while moving the boxes.

    Carry the second box over to the new location and catch the cloth (if you used one) with one finger while still holding the box and lift the cloth off and set the box down. Remove the lid and replace it with the cloth.

    Go back to the old location with the lid and repeat until all of the boxes but one are at the new location. When you do the next to the last box, leave the lid on it at the new location.

    When you get to the last box, leave it at the old location. Leave the inner cover on, put on the second lid. If you didn’t have a real bottom board, then put a stick between the box and the board you have it on to leave room for the bees to get in.

    After dark, block the entrance, or pull out the stick and carry it to the new location with the bottom in place. Just set it beside the hive with the branches in front of its entrance. Open the entrance or replace the stick. DO NOT TRY TO PUT THIS BOX ON THE HIVE IN THE DARK! If you have never opened a hive in the dark, consider yourself wise or fortunate and don’t. The bees are VERY defensive after dark and will chase you for hundreds of yards.

    The next morning you can put the last box on top of the hive. Remove any equipment from the old site so they don’t start clustering there.

    Some field bees will return to the old location. Most will not. The ones that do will circle until they find the new location and then will be fine after that.

    You can check in the evening before dark and see if any are clustering at the old location. If so, put a super there and they will move into it and you can move them after dark again. I have never had any clustered there by the next day and seldom had any at all.

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